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Tony MacAlpine: Still Shredding After All These Years

Alex Solca

In his 25-year career, guitar maestro Tony MacAlpine has helped redefine hard rock through his stunning solo albums and work with groundbreaking progressive rockers Planet X. His guitar hero status was cemented during the ’80s when players from Omaha to Osaka mimicked his mind-bending solos from albums like 1985′s ‘Edge of Sanity’ and 1987′s ‘Maximum Security.’

Unlike some of his shred-era compatriots, MacAlpine’s solo records have always included a healthy balance of intricate musicianship and catchy songwriting. “I think that comes naturally for me,” MacAlpine tells Noisecreep. “It’s not like I’ve ever said, “I think I have to hold back on this song” or anything like that. If there’s a melodic idea that I particularly like in a song I’ve written, it’s always fun to revisit it a few times. That’s where the catchiness comes from at times. I haven’t done an instrumental album in about 10 years so it was a great feeling to get back to that side of what I do.”

MacAlpine is referring to his brand new self-titled album, which hits stores this week. For the 12 song collection, the axe-slinger brought in some big guns to help him round out the recordings. “Yeah, I definitely didn’t mess around,” MacAlpine laughs. “I have Marco Minneman [Necrophagist] playing drums on a few tracks as well as Virgil Donati who I also play with in Planet X. Then we have a wonderful bassist named Philip Bynoe playing bass on one track. I’m thrilled with the performances these guys brought to the record.”

When Noisecreep brought up the fact that both Minneman and Donati had both recently been up for the Dream Theater drummer gig, he said he wasn’t surprised they had been in the running. “You’re talking about two of the most gifted drummers in the world right there.”

Seeing as he is one of the most respected names in the music business, Noisecreep asked MacAlpine why he’s stayed away from studio session work. “I purposely didn’t look for a lot of outside session work. I’ve always just wanted to focus on my solo work and it’s always been like that for me,” says MacAlpine.

But he soon lets us in on a bit of a secret. “OK, I guess there was one time where I almost went in a different direction. There was actually a point years back when I was going to link up with Mick Jagger, but that didn’t end up working out. Not that many people know about that. It definitely would have been an interesting project [laughs].”

Watch the video for ‘Pyrokinesis’

Our conversation then shifted towards the aforementioned shred era. “The mid to late ’80s was such a fun time for me. I got to tour the world playing shows, doing guitar clinics and making albums with some of my favorite musicians. Just getting to have people like Billy Sheehan [Mr. Big, David Lee Roth], George Lynch [Dokken], Jeff Watson [Night Ranger], Atma Anur [Cacophony] and Steve Smith [Journey], play on my early solo records was a treat. We were all young and so full of ideas. It was an exciting period, but I also love the fact that we’re all still pushing ourselves musically.”

‘Tony MacAlpine’ is out now via Steve Vai’s Favored Nations Entertainment.

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